Review: Minecraft (Nintendo Switch)
Minecraft fans have more options to play the game than any other property in history, In the six years since the game launched, players have been able to choose the platform that fits into their style of play, whether that's the fully-featured PC version, or the stripped-down and simplified Pocket Edition. Minecraft on the Nintendo Switch not only bridges the gap between the mobile and console ports, but it gives players unrivaled flexibility, all the while eliminating significant compromises.
Minecraft on the Switch comes complete with a number of built-in texture packs, PVP modes, and Super Mario-themed world, textures, and player skins. Unfortunately, the Switch release is slightly outdated, running the same version that was released in January on consoles, though that will probably be rectified soon.
The game looks gorgeous on the Switch in handheld mode. Colors are vibrant, edges are sharp, and the game strives for a consistent 60fps at the handheld's native 720p, though it does feature drops to a locked 30fps in some graphically taxing biomes like jungles. When docked, the game retains its 720p resolution, which is disappointing but not deal-breaking. Draw distance (how far you can see into the distance) is noticeably worse in handheld mode than it is in docked mode, but like the lower resolution and frame rate abnormalities, it's not game-crippling, and I quickly forgot about it.
In terms of world size, the Nintendo Switch version lands in the middle of the pack. The Wii U version of the game featured a paltry 864 x 864 world size limit. The Switch version multiplies that number by a significant factor, with worlds that are 3072 x 3072 blocks. For reference, that's roughly a third the size of the PS4 and Xbox One's 5120 x 5120 world size, though I never felt limited or restricted. 'Crafters spending months building sprawling worlds might run into some walls, but the size will be perfectly adequate for the vast, vast majority of players.
The Switch edition of Minecraft offers a few multiplayer modes, including two-player and four-player split screen. In two-player split screen, the performance of the game was almost indistinguishable from single player, though I did start to see some slowdown in four-player split screen-- something that's hardly surprising given how taxing such a feature can be.
Strangely, online multiplayer is as seamless as it is limited. While it remains impossible to invite a friend from the Switch's built-in friend list (a glaring oversight), your online session, if open, will be visible by other friends who start up the game, allowing them to join from the main menu. Since there's no chat of any kind, including text, it will be necessary to coordinate beforehand to set up multiplayer sessions.
Minecraft, at its core, is a social game. It comes alive when players work together to build fantastic creations, share the results of their creativity in a tangible way, and spin yarns about their fictional worlds, and the power and flexibility of the Switch encourages the game's social aspects. For example, on a recent trip, I spent a three-hour plane ride creating a small castle with an impressive throne room, featuring a lava and water floor surrounded by diamond blocks. I was so happy with my creation, I brought my Switch when I went to visit my niece, who is a self-described Minecraft nut. She quickly jumped into my game and began laying down blocks and floating ideas. We talked and built, and in that moment, the Switch version of the game made immediate sense. THIS was how to play the game.
I know this is bold, but I believe Minecraft on the Nintendo Switch is the best version of the game. No, it doesn't perform as well as the PS4, Xbox One, or PC versions of the game and it doesn't include the swath of features available to PC players, but the unbridled freedom it provides is unmatched. This is the full version of Minecraft, in your hands, wherever you want to go. The flexibility and limitless freedom epitomizes what the Nintendo Switch is all about. If you like Minecraft and you have a Nintendo Switch, it should be a no-brainer.